Macroscopic textures resulting from different atomic-scale mechanisms for metamorphic crystallization display different degrees of order, clustering, intergrowth and relative isolation of porphyroblasts. Data on the sizes and locations of thousands of crystals in a three-dimensional volume are required to identify reliably the mechanisms governing nucleation and growth of porphyroblasts from these textural features. These data can now be acquired by means of high-resolution computed X-ray tomography. Numerical models that simulate porphyroblast formation governed by either interface-controlled or diffusion-controlled reaction mechanisms indicate that quantitative textural analysis can discriminate between these possibilities. These numerical models also allow a comparison between textures predicted for different crystallization mechanisms and textures measured in natural samples, from which inferences can be drawn concerning the relative importance of these mechanisms in nature. An independent test of the validity of such inferences is possible for porphyroblasts such as garnet that may preserve prograde growth zoning and allow the examination of normalized radius–rate relations.